China will set up an “international maritime judicial center” to protect the country’s maritime rights and sovereignty claims, China’s top judge told the National People’s Congress on Sunday. Zhou Qiang, the chief justice of the Supreme People’s Court, made the comment while delivering the annual SPC work report. China’s Foreign Ministry clarified that the center will be established this year.
Zhou provided no further details on the proposed center. However, he noted the robust nature of China’s existing maritime courts. According to Zhou, China has the largest number of maritime courts in the world, and heard more maritime cases than any other country last year – around 16,000. Zhou held those figures up as evidence of the courts helping to implement the country’s “important strategies,” including its push to become a “maritime power.”
Zhou was quite clear about the motivation behind such a move. In his report, he said that China’s courts would work to fulfill the national strategy of turning China into a “maritime power.” As part of those efforts, China’s courts will “serve and safeguard the implementation of national strategies such as the ‘Belt and Road’ and [making China] a maritime power and resolutely defend national sovereignty, maritime rights, and other core interests.” Right after those promises, Zhou announced that China will “strengthen the work of maritime cases and construct an international maritime judicial center.”